Faculty Advisor

Kotsis, Kriszta

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2014


My research focused upon the use of Roman domestic decoration to convey feminine agency. The Roman Empire was comprised of male dominated social systems and state institutions. Men were able to define themselves through politics and business which were often public matters or conducted in the public space. The embedded patriarchal patterns seen in various facets of Roman society were inherently engrained in the domestic environment. While the Roman household was perceived to be a feminine space in its utility, the decorative elements worked to convey the paterfamilias’ identity. The decorative materials presented in my research were situated in two very different domestic spaces – one was state sanctioned and the other was a private villa in Pompeii. These homes represented a spectrum of religious experiences available to women during this time. The variety of It was through the practice of religion, whether state sanctioned or mysterious, that a woman was able to become more than an extension of her male counterpart – husband, father, brother or the like. The blurred conceptions of what was public and private space prompts the argument that there were differing aspirations for agency by Roman women. The spectrum of female-social participation made it appropriate to explore the state-sanctioned Vestal Priesthood and the private, often subversive Bacchic cult activities that are presumed to have occurred in the initiation room at the Villa of Mysteries. The Cult of Vesta, specifically the Vestal Virgins, were integral to the perpetuation of State vitality and prosperity by strictly adhering to ritual activity while it was the rituals themselves that granted the female participants of the Bacchic cult their agency.


University of Puget Sound